TEAM NEEDS: OT, DE, CB, WR, OG
The Detroit Lions were behind the eight ball heading into the offseason. Strapped with hefty contracts, the Lions had little wiggle room to fill holes on the roster.
Martin Mayhew and company restructured some deals and unexpected retirement of Jeff Backus freed up enough money for the Lions to add four starters in free agency and retain Chris Houston. The Lions added starters Reggie Bush, Jason Jones, Glover Quin, and David Akers while adding depth to the DL in C.J. Mosley. The biggest signing was re-signing starting CB Chris Houston.
Going into the draft, the Lions had glaring needs at the defensive end and left tackle positions. With the top three left tackles being so highly coveted, it became more apparent that they would be long gone before the Lions selected with the fifth overall pick. .
After the break, check out a pick by pick analysis of the Eagles 2013 NFL Draft selections.
Round One, (5) – Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU
There is a sect of Lions fans that despise this selection. The facts remain that Ansah has three years of football experience under his belt and only a year of starting experience. He didn’t produce huge sack numbers in college, in his one year of game action. All that said, this is a unique talent that is just beginning to scratch the surface of what he can do on a football field. The Lions coaching staff got a firsthand look at Ansah in their system at the Senior Bowl and watched as he grew leaps and bounds throughout the week of practice. It’s that upside that had teams salivating at what Ansah can be as a pro.
Round Two, (36) – Darius Slay, CB, Mississippi State
I was a bit surprised with this selection. Days before the draft, reports of problems with Slay’s meniscus emerged. There’s no doubt in my mind that Slay warranted this selection but with knee problems surfacing, I thought he would slide a bit down the board. Slay could step into a starting role opposite Chris Houston, allowing Bill Bentley to man the slot. The corner position goes from a position of weakness to strength with a solid group of young corners in Slay, Bentley, and Jonte Green to go with veteran Chris Houston.
Round Three, (65) – Larry Warford, OG, Kentucky
This was one of the steals of the draft in my book. Warford carried a late first round grade as he’s a plug and play RG. Warford will step into the starting lineup from day one of camp and never look back.
Round Four, (132) – Devin Taylor, DE, South Carolina
I wasn’t the biggest fan of Devin Taylor’s but at this spot he’s a good value and gives the Lions a solid depth player. He combines unique length and athleticism that could make him a solid rusher in sub packages.
Round Five, (165) – Sam Martin, P, Appalachian State
This would have been a bit of a reach for me but the Lions really needed to come out of this draft with a punter that was capable of an immediate contribution. Martin was arguably the draft’s best punter and will begin camp as the team’s top punter.
Round Six, (217) – Corey Fuller, WR, Virginia Tech
Fuller was one of the tougher evaluations for me at the WR position. He’s a raw player with size and speed. He’s a guy that the Lions could stick on the shelf for a season or two and he could emerge into a viable receiver in the near future after he learns the nuances of the position.
Round Six, (199) – Theo Riddick, RB/WR, Notre Dame
This pick was a homerun as I couldn’t believe that Riddick was still on the board with the 199th pick. Riddick is a versatile player that can line up in the backfield and has experience as a receiver. Riddick gives the Lions another versatile back to pair with Reggie Bush. I would be shocked if Riddick didn’t make the roster and contribute as early as this season.
Round Seven, (211) – Michael Williams, TE, Alabama
The Lions love to use two tight end sets and Williams gives them a TE that is capable of securing the third TE spot. He’s a great blocker with good hands but lacks the speed to stretch the defense vertically.
Round Seven, (245) – Brandon Hepburn, ILB, Florida A&M
Another homerun for the Lions late in the draft. Hepburn carried a fifth round grade on our board and he should compete for a backup job right off the bat.
UNDRAFTED FREE AGENT SIGNINGS: Alex Carder, QB, Western Michigan – Steven Miller, RB, Appalachian State – Joseph Fauria, TE, UCLA – Cody Wilson, WR, Central Michigan – LaAdrian Waddle, OT, Texas Tech – Austin Holtz, OT, Ball State – Skyler Allen, C, Ohio – Michael Brooks, DL, East Carolina – Jon Morgan, LB, Albany – Alex Elkins, LB, Oklahoma State – Martavius Neloms, CB, Kentucky
If you can walk out a draft with two starters, you’re in pretty good shape. The Lions may have found themselves, three starters and a punter. Ezekiel Ansah will step in from day one at DE and will be asked to go after the quarterback until he learns the nuances of the game.
Larry Warford gives the Lions a guy that can step in immediately at RG for Bill Nagy and Darius Slay should challenge for the starting spot opposite Chris Houston.
The glaring need on this roster will be at LT. The Lions drafted Riley Reiff in last year’s draft to take over that spot but I’m not sold on him playing the left side. In an ideal world, Reiff would man the RT spot or move inside but without a LT he will be given the first shot. That leaves the tackle depth of Corey Hilliard and Jason Fox. Fox was drafted with an eye on the future but injuries and so-so play has relegated him to a rotational tackle role. The Lions really need some quality depth at the tackle spot and should be in the market for a true LT next offseason.
Overall, this was a solid draft for Martin Mayhew and he needed it after an abysmal 2012 season had many questioning his viability as the team’s top decision maker.
BONUS FOR LIONS FANS
I’m a diehard Browns fan, as many of you know. That said, growing up I was a Barry Sanders fan. Seeing Barry on the stage brought back some fond football memories. So, your welcome for this one…Barry Sanders high school highlights.